President Michel visits prisoners on Coetivy island-‘Rehab programme working well’


He was speaking after visiting the island yesterday to see for himself the progress of the programme, and how all living there were faring.

The President was accompanied by the Minister for Home Affairs and Transport Joël Morgan, the Minister for Land Use and Housing Christian Lionnet, and other officials from State House and the government.

Also present was a representative of the Friends of Prison – a non-governmental organisation.

The visitors spent half a day on Coetivy where they visited the grounds, saw the prisoners at work and also toured the facilities on the island, and were told what goes on in a typical day.

Among the work sites the delegation saw was the production of copra oil (some 210 litres per day to be exported in bulk to Kenya), clearing and beautification of land, production of 200kg of pounak per day and sold by the Island Development Company (IDC) to the animal feed factory and other tasks the prisoners are assigned.

The visitors also visited the house of the village coordinator, bakery, kitchen, dining hall, library, fishing boats, gym, prisoners’ houses, and a site for future development where former warehouses will be transformed into dormitories.

The rehabilitation programme was set up three years ago in collaboration with the IDC and started out with a first batch of 10 prisoners who arrived there in August 28, 2010.

Today, the island has 70 prisoners and a total of 178 have been through the programme, and 36 released after successfully completing rehab. Since its conception, only two prisoners who have been on the programme are known to have re-offended.

The village is currently being managed by inspector Julita Agathine with the support of three local officers and four Nepalese officers, and all the work assignments are done in collaboration with island manager Michel Delorie.

The island is almost self-sustaining, where the prisoners do activities such as fishing, clearing of undergrowth, opening up of roads, collecting and de-husking of coconuts, charcoal production, vegetable farming, husbandry, mechanic, production of brooms, carpentry, paintings, salting of fish, sewing, baking, cooking, loading and unloading of vessels and planes, and helping the IDC fire service.

The prisoners receive a small payment for each day’s work, which they get in totality when they complete their sentence.
Speaking to the press at the end of the visit, President Michel said many of the convicts can be saved and can successfully be re-integrated into society without them offending again.

“We need to re-affirm and maintain our firmness with drug traffickers, since they are condemning our youth to a death sentence, and we will not tolerate this,” he said.

“The prisoners have shown that they are being rehabilitated and once released there needs to be a follow-up to ensure they find employment. Work is already being done by the ministries and agencies concerned.”

He added that the convicts have shown a sense of pride and ownership in beautifying their houses, and in learning a trade, and employment opportunities are being worked on for them with agencies such as the IDC, and even government agencies.

“Some of them have expressed their wish to continue working with the IDC after they complete their sentences,” he said.

“The prisoners here are not hardcore criminals and with a 94% success rate, this rehabilitation programme has proven to be a very useful asset for the nation and for society.”

In the meantime, work is being done to accommodate a larger group of 100 prisoners once the facilities are put in place.

Our accompanying photos show President Michel and his delegation inspecting the various work done by the convicts on Coetivy.

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